August 29th, 2013 / 1:45 pm

The Strange and Dirty Beauty of Hudson NY

Swallow, a coffee shop located on Warren Street, has either the feel of just opening or just burglarized. It’s a disarming effect – the space is wide open with minimal furniture, the walls a fresh coat of white paint, and there’s a record player swamped in trash at the back playing soft noise, like fire crawling across the floor and around your feet. They serve Stumptown Coffee and the workers act like they don’t give a fuck. On a recent day trip from our home thirty minutes north, my wife got into line and Malcolm Gladwell was three people behind her. Before we left, I asked her if she saw Malcolm Gladwell and she said yes, and asked me if I saw the guy from Grey’s Anatomy, and I said no, was it McDreamy?

I realize this type of coffee shop experience isn’t really interesting to those in Brooklyn or LA or, I don’t know, people who hate coffee people, but what you have to understand is that Hudson is located in upstate New York and country bumpkin as shit. Surrounding the small town are things like lush green mountains, the Hudson river, and a Walmart that sets back from a main road a half mile and appears to sink-in the horizon. To get a better sense of Hudson and what the streets feel like that haven’t been built up by places like Swallow, imagine looking through no-foliage apartments and seeing the chair wrestling scene from Gummo.

Which makes the rise of Hudson as a modern day hipster hangout so bizarre. It’s largely a poor community with poor people (a quarter of the population is below the poverty line) that now have to visually register the skinny jeans of those coming up from the city. I’ve visited Hudson a half dozen times in the past year and each time seen the same thing – yuppies, hipsters, money-lotioned faces, bearded skeletons in black Ray-Bans  – walking Warren Street  all with the same looks plastered on their faces. A kind of starring up at the sky to see a rocket, but there’s no rocket, and the sky is these old brick buildings. More than once, I’ve heard Hudson called the new Brooklyn, although its vibe is more Buffalo 1995. Two years ago, the New York Times did a feature on Hudson titled “Williamsburg on the Hudson” which makes me feel like I’ve eaten too much fried dough.

A bunch of artists and writers live in Hudson. The publisher and founder of FENCE, Rebecca Wolff, recently moved there. John “Pokémon” Ashbury has a place. Rudolph Wurlitzer lives there with his wife, Lynn Davis, a well known photographer. Philip Glass has a place. Basilica, a community arts space owned by Hudson resident Melissa Auf Der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) hosted Grimes last year. Lydia Davis is rumored to live nearby. The list is fairly deep and continues to grow with its most recent transplant, Marina Abramovic, who has purchased, and plans, to create a new dimension of reality with a massive never-been-done-before performance arts place (visitors will have to, brace yourself because holy shit, spend a minimum of six hours in the space).

I like Hudson. It’s an incredibly odd place with a meth-lab Last of the Mohicans vibe. It’s becoming sleeker and less raw, but it still possesses a hard-work grime quality that I admire. Most of the people walking the streets, especially off Warren Street, appear to have deep roots in Hudson. Their faces look anchored to the cement. Those visiting who walk these streets are Disney-tourist noticeable. On a late weekend afternoon, if the weather is good, the main streets, like Warren, are packed shoulder to shoulder with the curious.

My wife and I have considered moving to Hudson, but there’s always something holding us back from it, and we’re not sure why exactly. Maybe it just feels wrong? I don’t know. But the question I’m most intrigued by is if Hudson will make or break. Can a small upstate town like this really become a community of artists and writers resembling some kind of art-house utopia? Has it already? Do you realize that in Hudson NY you can have a perfect cup of coffee at Swallow, buy a book and a beer across the street at the Spotty Dog, and then have the best Mexican food upstate at Mexican Radio ten yards up the street?


  1. shaun gannon

      i would stay in a place forever if M.A. told me to

  2. lorian long

      how much does it cost to live there

  3. Shane Jones

      good question. i’m sure you could rent a place on the cheap on a shitty street, but I rarely see for rent signs up. a decent day job could be tough to find in hudson.

  4. elias tezapsidis

      six hours isn t a long time if u consider lifechanging effect the meditation will 100% def engender.

  5. Shane Jones

      for sure. i wasn’t knocking it. i think it’s great. i just thought it was rare to see something called for, like that, instead of bros skipping through MOMA.

  6. Mark Cugini

      I donated to that Abramovic Kickstarter and I’m, like, 30% embarrassed about it.

  7. markbaumer

      Is there a free twenty-four hour buffet where you’re contractually obligated to not eat for the first twenty-three hours and then allowed to eat as many bowls of corn flakes as you want in the last hour?

  8. bemightee

      ‘It’s an incredibly odd place with a meth-lab Last of the Mohicans vibe.’ ok now i have to check this place out.

      your description of the hipster element creeping in reminds me of the ballard neighborhood in seattle. when i lived there it was low-income families and then next time i went back to visit years later it looked like an american apparel ad. all condoed out. skinny jeans everywhere.

  9. blitzkriegchef

      While most of what you say here is true of all the wonderful restaurants in Hudson you only mention Mexican radio which is of the shittiest and should not be considered Mexican food at all


      Funny community .. everyone doing their own thing … everything is here if you know where to look … lots of new wave money coming to town … Marina’s joint may draw for a while but it won’t make a real difference. What we fear most is gentrification and New York ATTITUDE because most of us are displaced ex New Yorkers who are over New York. Come enjoy a town that already works but don’t think you can change it. Where still working on the foundation!

  11. Bronxgirl

      Thank you blitzkriegchef! Truly the most awful “Mexican” food ever and for the life of me I cannot understand how they have hypnotized everyone into thinking it’s wonderful. I think people think it’s hip to eat here as the other Mexican Radio is in the city.

  12. Jesse Hirsch

      $600 on the lowest end, but it’s not uncommon to see fancy lofts at $2000+

  13. Jesse Hirsch

      agreed, enjoyed the post but was startled by the last sentence. Drinks are strong but that food is misery. Bears mentioning that there’s another Mexican Radio in Soho

  14. Thomas Masterson

      Yeah, Casa Latina in Catskill is MUCH better.

  15. DeWayne Powell

      Shane, I agree with you 100% about Swallow. But, there are plenty of other joints in Hudson where you can find a good cup of coffee, good humor, and good intellect. Btw, I’d love to sell you and your followers/readers a home in Hudson. Please feel free to get in touch with me at–DeWayne